This all-girls school received gloves from Ohtani -- and it made their year

'The gymnasium was filled with pure joy'

June 28th, 2024
Photo via koen.shotouka on Instagram, Art by Tom Forget

You may remember late last year when Shohei Ohtani donated 60,000 gloves to 20,000 elementary schools throughout Japan. The two-time MVP -- and current NL frontrunner -- hoped the donation would instill more interest in the sport, as he said in his Instagram post announcing the initiative.

“I’m hoping the kids can spend their days happily with a lot of energy through baseball,” Ohtani said. “I’ll be looking forward to sharing the field one day with someone that grew up using this glove!”

Well, one school, Koen Girls Elementary in Tokyo, seemed particularly pleased about their new baseball equipment -- so much so that they held an entire, student body-wide ceremony and posted about it on Instagram earlier this year.

"The kids were very happy," an administrative official from Koen told us through a translator. "A lot of the kids knew about the gloves being gifted by Shohei, but many were skeptical about whether they would arrive at Koen [an all-girls school]. But that uncertainty made it all that much sweeter when they arrived."

Like all the other schools in Japan, Koen received three gloves. Some kids knew about Ohtani from his famed high school or NPB days, while others had no idea what baseball even was. A few teachers were touching a baseball for the first time, telling others they thought it was "made of iron."

But the mitts, even just three of them, apparently sent everyone -- baseball fan or not -- cheering through the hallways. And the ones who play used them almost immediately, taking turns firing pitches for the camera.

Or just posing with their new gifts.

"The gymnasium was filled with pure joy," the Koen representative said. "Kids were joyous about being able to experience baseball for the first time, joyous about the special gift that Shohei gave them, and joyous about getting together for a special event."

The school has made an effort to teach its students about Japan's pastime -- introducing Ohtani's Goal Setting Matrix into its lessons and talking about the 2023 World Baseball Classic while it was happening. (Many became very interested in the tournament and there are now, of course, a few Lars Nootbaar fanatics). And, as Koen noted and judging from the kids' reaction, these gloves will undoubtedly help to further interest in the sport. One girl, who didn't get a glove, even wrote a letter after the special delivery, dreaming of owning a mitt and playing someday. Here's the letter below in full, translated from Japanese to English. It might be the best thing you'll read all day.

I want to play baseball someday

Everyday, I throw a baseball against a wall and catch it when it comes bouncing back. The way I throw with my right hand and catch with my left is similar to baseball. After doing this many times, it started to get really fun, and now I’d like to start playing baseball. The National High School Invitational Baseball Tournament is going on right now, and while I haven’t been watching much, I observed the movements of the pitcher a little. It was really cool how the pitcher threw with a big wind-up, and he’s now someone I admire. Right now, I don’t have a bat, glove or ball to play baseball with, so I can’t start playing right away. But no matter what, I’d like to play baseball someday. I get to throw the ball during dodgeball which I think is a good way of practicing for baseball. I’d like to get tips from my friend Shiho and my teacher Mr. Watanabe who both play. I want to play baseball someday.

She now has a glove and plays catch with her dad on a daily basis.

Hey, someday, somehow, maybe she will share the field with the legendary player who inspired her to try out the sport.

Many thanks to MLB's Yugo Hosaka for translation and research help.